Do You Know These 5 Iconic Regional Dishes from Japan?
Does your country have different traditional food in different regions? In Japan, we have many different traditional and specialty foods all across the country. That’s why it is always a good idea to go a culinary tour while you are in Japan (and be prepared to gain weight too!).
Sapporo (or Hokkaido generally) is the birthplace of miso ramen, so be sure to try it if you go to Sapporo. We can say that miso ramen is truly Sapporo’s local food. Miso ramen is said to have first appeared in the latter half of the 1950s at a local ramen shop called “Aji no Sanpei”. The owner, Mr. Morito Omiya, devised this dish using hints of miso soup. In the period after World War II, many people were left malnourished. As a result, Mr. Morito said, “I would like to provide nutritious and delicious meals, like a medicinal soup, where a single bowl can be an entire meal.”
Miso was said to be good for the body and was not used much at that time. When constructing the dish, many recipes were tested using the additional nutritional boost of garlic, which was rarely used at the time, along with a vegetable stir-fry. Miso was thought to be the best choice.
Did you know that in Sapporo, there is a ramen alley known as The Sapporo Ramen Yokocho? It is a narrow passageway with wall-to-wall ramen shops that sell delicious ramen. We suggest you come a bit early for dinner as the queue in most shops is quite long at dinner time.
Takoyaki is one of Japan’s most iconic street foods. Originating in Osaka, takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese snack or appetizer made of wheat flour and is typically filled with minced or diced octopus (tako). Takoyaki usually served with toppings such as green seaweed, sauce, dried bonito (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna), and mayonnaise.
Osaka's streets are full of takoyaki shops that are often visited by students and dating couples poking toothpicks into these golf ball-sized snacks. Besides the snack itself, you can buy takoyaki merchandise as well, like takoyaki key chains, dolls, and even cell phone straps! Lastly, as proof that takoyaki is truly Osaka’s iconic food, you can visit the Osaka Takoyaki Museum in the Universal City Walk Osaka mall next to Universal Studios! Tokyo also has many Takoyaki stands if you are looking to get your fix.
Kyoto: Kaiseki or Kaiseki-ryōri
Kaiseki or kaiseki-ryōri is a traditional Japanese dining experience that involves multiple courses of delicious food in order to create the perfect meal. You may think it’s similar to omakase. The difference is that omakase is the Japanese tradition of letting a chef choose your order and the dishes can be adjusted to suit the guest’s preference, and guests can also choose to stop the meal once they have had enough. Kaiseki on the other hand, is a prescribed set of courses that is dependent on the seasonal produce. There is hardly ever any set list of dishes; instead, chefs create meals out of the ingredients that are in season at the time.
Nowhere can a more refined kaiseki dining experience be found than in the ancient capital of Kyoto. Kyoto has several luxurious and Michelin star Kaiseki restaurants. The cost to try Kaiseki is quite high and can be very expensive. For dinner, the cost usually starts from ¥10,000- ¥20,000. The price for lunch is cheaper, starting around ¥5,000.
Kyushu: Mizutaki Chicken
It is said that, except for Tokyo, you’ll find more restaurants in Kyushu per person than any other part of Japan! There are more than 10,000 restaurants in Kyushu. Kyushu has seven prefectures (Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Oita, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, and Kagoshima) and their islands. Each of these seven prefectures has many local ingredients and their own unique dishes. One of the famous Kyushu dishes is Mizutaki chicken from Fukuoka.
Mizutaki is a nabe-style hot pot dish that uses chicken and assorted vegetables that are boiled in a large pot filled with dashi broth, then served with ponzu sauce (citrus-based sauce). Most of the famous mizutaki restaurants selectively choose the best chicken meat to make their own signature mizutaki dish. You can add rice or noodles to finish the meal, making it great for a cold or rainy day.
Tokyo’s mojanyaki is the cousin of Hiroshima’s okonomiyaki (but less photogenic and attractive). Cooked on a griddle like okonomiyaki, this version more of a liquid consistency and is eaten with tiny spatulas as it cooks. We can say that mojanyaki is truly one of Tokyo’s signature dishes. There is even Monja Street in Tsukushima, Tokyo, which has dozens of mojanyaki restaurants to choose from.
It’s a “cook it yourself” dish: ingredients such as cabbage, dried squid, sweetcorn, and toppings such as eggplant and cheese, are cooked on a hotplate. Then a runny batter is poured into the middle of the ingredients, that are moved into a donut shape. It is all scraped around with a small spatula, and eaten off the spatula once it is cooked. A tasty dish and fun experience, especially if you eat it with your family and friends!
In case you haven’t noticed our November box this year has Japan regional special dishes as its theme. We have curated special treats based on special dish flavor from various regions in Japan like hojicha KitKat from Kyoto and Anpaman Apple gummies from Aomori! Which one is your favorite? Comment your answer in the comment box below!